By Jordan Kroeger, SunCoast Sports
ENGLEWOOD — It looked as if one team’s mind was on baseball while the other’s was on spring break or elsewhere during Tuesday’s doubleheader between Port Charlotte and Lemon Bay.
Port Charlotte got solid pitching in both games, strung together timely hits, and took advantage of a host of Lemon Bay errors to win both games at Jack Llewellyn Field.
Behind six strong innings from pitcher Devin Rack, the Pirates defeated the Manta Rays 5-1 in the first game as the designated home team. They then followed that up with a 15-7 shellacking in the capper, a win aided by nine Lemon Bay errors.
“These were good wins today,” Port Charlotte coach Rodney Taylor said. “Over spring break the kids’ heads are somewhere else but they came out, they had fun, they took care of business and it was two good wins for them.”
Rack took a shutout into the seventh inning of the opener before eventually getting charged with a run when Matt Intihar relieved him. The starter scattered six hits throughout the morning and struck out six, holding the Manta Rays’ scoreless for most of the day despite also walking two and hitting three more.
The Manta Rays went 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position, which included runners on the corners in the first inning and another opportunity where they loaded the bases with only one out in the third. Their only run came on a double play groundout in the seventh that pushed Trey Fields across the plate to prevent the shutout.
“If we get a big hit in a key situation who knows, it could’ve changed the whole momentum of the entire day, but we didn’t and I don’t have any excuses for it. We just didn’t get it done today,” Lemon Bay coach Casey Hanrahan said.
The Pirates took a 4-0 lead in the first inning of the first game against starter Brandon Gielow. Port Charlotte scored one run on an error before Mitchell Derocher singled home one and Jason James plated two more with another single.
Gielow settled in following the rough opening frame, striking out eight before being replaced in the fifth by Zach Taylor, who gave up another run on Romain Reynolds’ RBI single.
The sun shone a little brighter on the Manta Rays — albeit for just a little — in the second game as they took a 5-0 lead in the first inning. They knocked James from the mound after only two outs as Chace Shork and Flynn Stewart each drove in a pair of runs while Gielow brought home another.
But Dominic Delgaudio came on in relief and cruised the rest of the way, only surrendering one earned run on four hits with a pair of strikeouts. Taylor couldn’t praise his pitchers enough following the wins.
“Devin did a great job. With Rack, it’s a flip of the coin, you never know what you’re going to get from him, but he gave it his all today,” Taylor said. “He came out and threw well. He worked his way out of that first inning and bounced back
“JJ had a bit of a rough start and Dominic came in and he was lights out. He kept them off balance the rest of the game and did a great job for us. He did exactly what we asked him to do, throw strikes, and his defense played behind him.”
Port Charlotte eventually turned a 6-2 deficit into a 12-6 lead by the fifth inning on its way to a 15-7 win. Seven of those 15 runs were unearned thanks to nine errors, which included four on one play during the fourth inning that allowed James to reach first and make it all the way home for a run.
All nine errors contributed to Port Charlotte’s 10 unanswered runs. Lemon Bay starter Jacob Treece was charged with five earned runs in four innings of work and Josh Sweiderk surrendered four earned runs over the final three innings in relief.
“You can’t win baseball games like that. Maybe two at the most but nine errors in one game, you’re not going to beat many teams like that,” Hanrahan said. “Our hearts just weren’t in it today. You can blame it on whatever you want — spring break, the wind, the sun — I don’t know. We lost and we didn’t look very good.”
James and Intihar led Port Charlotte’s offense in the second game, driving in two runs apiece.
Lemon Bay outfielder Josh Gossett suffered an injury to his collarbone following a diving catch in right field during the sixth inning of the second game. He was taken to the hospital for X-rays.
PORT CHARLOTTE 5, LEMON BAY 1
Lemon Bay 000 000 1 — 1 7 2
Port Charlotte 400 001 x — 5 9 1
WP: Devin Rack. LP: Brandon Gielow. Top hitters: (PC) Jason James (PC) 1-1, 2 RBI; Hunter Wilder 3-4, R; Romain Reynolds 1-2, BB, RBI, R; Mitchell Derocher 1-3, RBI; (LB) Trey Fields 2-3, 2B, BB, R.
PORT CHARLOTTE 15, LEMON BAY 7
Port Charlotte 025 320 3 — 15 11 2
Lemon Bay 510 001 0 — 7 11 9
WP: Dominic Delgaudio LP: Jacob Treece. Top hitters: (PC) Jason James 1-3, 2 RBI, 3 R; Matt Intihar 3-5, 2 RBI, R; (LC) Chace Shork 1-4, 3 RBI; Flynn Stewart 2-4, 2 RBI. Records: Port Charlotte 6-5, Lemon Bay 3-6.